Identity theft is when someone uses your personally identifiable information (like Social Security number, financial account numbers, credit card numbers, etc.) to commit crimes or fraud.
Identity theft is a growing crime these days, and it’s important to know about identity theft protection so you can guard against unwanted compromises with your financial information.
Below you’ll find stats on identity theft and some ways the Federal Trade Commission is encouraging you to protect yourself from identity theft.
Statistics on Identity Theft
- There were more than 11 million ID Theft cases in 2009
- 66% of stolen personal information is used to open new credit accounts
- 28% is used to buy cellphone subscriptions
- At least 33% open new checking accounts to write bad checks
- An identity theft victim spends on average 330 hours and $1,000 clearing his or her name
- 70% are unsuccessful in removing negative credit information from their credit reports
- 47% of victims experience difficulty getting any kind of credit
- 40% report profound stress in their personal lives as a result of identity theft
- 11% say that the theft has impaired their ability to get jobs (with more employers looking at applicants’ credit information when making hiring decisions, this trend is expected to increase)
- 43% of victims think they know the thieves who stole their personal information
Helpful Identity Theft Protection Tips
The FTC has a catchy way to remember identity theft protection tips. You can view the document here. Here’s what it says:
- Shred financial documents and paperwork with personal information before you discard them.
- Protect your Social Security number. Don’t carry your Social Security card in your wallet or write your Social Security number on a check. Give it out only if absolutely necessary or ask to use another identifier.
- Don’t give out personal information on the phone, through the mail, or over the Internet unless you know who you are dealing with. Avoid disclosing personal financial information when using public wireless connections.
- Never click on links sent in unsolicited emails; instead, type in a web address you know. Use firewalls, anti-spyware, and anti-virus software to protect your home computer; keep them up-to-date.
- Don’t use an obvious password like your birth date, your mother’s maiden name, or the last four digits of your Social Security number.
- Keep your personal information in a secure place at home, especially if you have roommates, employ outside help or are having work done in your house.
- Be alert to signs that require immediate attention:
- Bills that do not arrive as expected
- Unexpected credit cards or account statements
- Denials of credit for no apparent reason
- Calls or letters about purchases you did not make
- Charges on your financial statements that you don’t recognize
- Inspect your credit report:
- Credit reports contain information about you, including what accounts you have and your bill paying history.
- The law requires the major nationwide consumer reporting companies—Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion—to give you a free copy of your credit report every 12 months if you ask for it.
- Visit www.AnnualCreditReport.com or call 1-877-322-8228, a service created by these three companies, to order your free annual credit reports. You also can write: Annual Credit Report Request Service, P.O. Box 105281, Atlanta, GA 30348-5281.
- If you see accounts or addresses you don’t recognize or information that is inaccurate, contact the credit reporting company and the information provider. To find out how to correct errors on your credit report, visit ftc.gov/idtheft.
- Place a “Fraud Alert” on your credit reports, and review the reports carefully. The alert tells creditors to follow certain procedures before they open new accounts in your name or make changes to your existing accounts. The three nationwide consumer reporting companies have toll-free numbers for placing an initial 90-day fraud alert; a call to one company is sufficient:
- Experian: 1-888-EXPERIAN (397-3742)
- TransUnion: 1-800-680-7289
- Equifax: 1-800-525-6285
Placing a fraud alert entitles you to free copies of your credit reports. Look for inquiries from companies you haven’t
contacted, accounts you didn’t open, and debts on your accounts that you can’t explain.
- Contact the security or fraud departments of each company where an account was opened or charged without your okay.
- Follow up in writing, with copies of supporting documents.
- Use the ID Theft Affidavit at ftc.gov/idtheft to support your written statement.
- Ask for verification that the disputed account has been dealt with and the fraudulent debts discharged.
- Keep copies of documents and records of your conversations about the theft.
- File a police report. File a report with law enforcement officials to help you correct your credit report and deal with creditors who may want proof of the crime.
- Report the theft to the Federal Trade Commission. Your report helps law enforcement officials across the country in their investigations.
- Online: ftc.gov/idtheft
- By phone: 1-877-ID-THEFT (438-4338) or TTY, 1-866-653-4261
- By mail: Identity Theft Clearinghouse, Federal Trade Commission, Washington, DC 20580